My Father is Yacky

Thought I would get a few words down right now, before I call my dad. Dad has always been a talker, even before he retired, but since mom died it’s hard to get a word in edge wise plus it’s always a long call. Lisa gets a kick out of it, especially when he says “I suppose I should let you go” and then proceeds to launch into a conversation about his next newest project. 30 minutes later, he’s still talking. I’m glad he’s still around to talk with, however, and the guy is as healthy as anyone. He turns 83 next month, but he has the energy and clear mind of someone much, much younger.

I do like how he gets excited about things. Usually it’s his newest purchase, or his newest expected purchase, I should say. When he bought his e-bike last year, he researched for weeks before finally deciding on a HeyBike. This was after purchasing a used e-bike online that proved to be a bit too heavy for his liking, and it fell on him while he was installing a kickstand on it. That mishap resulted in a broken wrist (the guy removed the cast himself after about three weeks). Our phone calls last year consisted of reports on his rides and upgrades he was considering for the HeyBike. At one point, I had to talk him out of buying a trailer attachment, so he could take his dog along on rides. I am happy with the mileage he logged this past Fall — over 500 miles.

Before the bike, it was a sudden itch to try out motorcycles, which did not turn out well. He signed up for a riding skills course, one where the motorcycle is provided. The instructor eventually told him that maybe it was best dad learn to ride at home. I am glad for that. As the only son of his three sons that had owned a motorcycle, not only did dad consult me about every idea, but I know enough about riding to be genuinely scared for my father. I was glad when he gave up the idea.

Recently dad decided to have all the floors in his house replaced with vinyl. He really liked the floor Lisa and I had put in, so after a few months of consternation and consulting with us, he had the floors replaced. Dad is a bit cheap, so price became a factor. That meant he decided to leave the original cherry baseboards and trim. When the floors were finished, Dad’s new project became making his own baseboard and shoe (he has his own wood shop). I’m pretty sure my aunt and his lady friend (he won’t call her his girlfriend — no one will ever live up to the standard my mom set, a very high bar to reach) convinced him to replace the trim. To his credit, he finished the whole baseboard and trim project in a few days. It looks very nice.

When Dad last visited, he was impressed with the large flat screen TV set up we have in our condo. He had never considered a smart TV set up, liked the wireless mesh network I have, especially when he saw that it made it possible to watch TV out in the garage. There were all sorts of questions about the different streaming subscriptions we use. This project only took a few weeks, however, and now he has a very nice TV. It’s funny how he cut his entertainment center in half, so the larger TV would fit. Soon, he will probably mount the TV he bought on the wall. I will make the trip down to visit him that weekend, help him with the wall mount.

Watching my dad makes me wonder what it’s going to be like for me in a few years. I am not too far away from retirement, just a few short years away, and I find myself resembling my father more than I care to admit. Also, like him, I have a wife who keeps me busy, who is always planning our next project or adventure. Our condo has transformed in the last year since we married and I moved in. We bought paint and supplies to paint our kitchen this weekend, so that’s going to be my project for the next few days. We also are looking at tubs or shower units, vanities, sinks and vanity tops for the main bathroom. That will likely be done in the next few months. On top of that, we go to Disney next month, are planning a trip to Turkey in June, and a trip to Arkansas in July. Lisa is going to Colorado in April for work, is taking our granddaughter to Disney in July.

I also am going to be playing tennis competitively for the first time ever. My friend, Norm, and I signed up as doubles partners for the indoor/outdoor season in a regional tennis league. Games start in two weeks, with the indoor season going until May, followed by the outdoor season that goes until the end of August. Couple that with mountain biking and I am either going to be very tired, or in the best physical shape of my semi senior life. I turn 62 this year. While I am an active 60+, I am not going to say 60 is the new 40.

Looking at my dad, though, I would say 80 is the new 60.

Image Bearer

What is the challenge of being a newlywed, a 61 year old newlywed, a 61 year old newlywed 5 years after divorce and 25 years of marriage?

To be real honest, the biggest challenge for me is to live up to the image she has of me. My wife is grateful to have a man who loves God, who encourages her in her faith, and she shows me that by being happy with the simple faith I have. Before each meal we eat together, she takes my hand and listens to me give thanks to God, often squeezing my hand as I pray for us as a way to show her appreciation. When we painted and remodeled our condo this past summer, it was something we did together, and she acknowledged even my smallest contributions. I hear how she builds me up in conversation with her family and friends. She wants me to be my own man, admires that, encourages it. We worship together, truly together, next to each other, and I feel her admiration as she holds me hand during church services. She makes me feel like I am a man to be admired, because she truly feels that way about me. Living up to the image my wife has of me is really pretty simple to do, and I know that even when I stumble (and I have a little) she will forgive me, will continue to build me up.

In comparison, I spent 25 years wondering why I didn’t live up to the expectations my first wife had of me. I could never live up to those expectations, an almost mythical man she and her sisters had created from what she thought of her father, a spiritual giant who was obsessed with being just that. My ex expected me to be someone I could never be, and she punished me for it. When I didn’t live up to those expectations, when I stumbled, her opinion disappeared into the abyss of disrespect. She withdrew herself from me, never worshipped with me, and I eventually gave up trying to figure out what I could do to gain her respect. The last few years of our marriage, I was emotionally starved. After we separated, I hungered for attention, didn’t realize how emotionally malnourished I had become.

So how do I live up to the image my wife has of me? A lot of it has to do with being aware of what she needs from me. I don’t have to be a spiritual giant. I just need to be a man who loves Jesus.. and I do. There is no pressure to be anything I am not. The result is that I am growing in my walk with God, enjoying what I am learning, happy that she is watching me and satisfied with my desire to know God. She told me one day how happy it made her to hear me singing along to a worship song as I worked one morning, hugged me with tears in her eyes as she told me that (I think she likes my singing voice, too). The reality of it all is that there really isn’t an image I have to live up to. I just need to be myself with her, continue to be the man she fell in love with.

My mother was that way with my father until the day that she died. No wonder he misses her so much.

Evening Ramble

This is going to be one of those evening blogs where I sit down to write with no real purpose in mind. I have the time tonight, really just want to see my mind in front of me. Had I not made a Costco run, I might have started earlier without the fog of near beditme in my head. The Costco run was necessary, though, a voyage of importance — my favorite dark roast coffee pods ran out this past week. I have been forced to drink the overly strawberry-ish chocolate coffee I bought at Menards (on one of my rebellious visits without my wife). It’s not that the coffee is bad. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty good, but that coffee is not an every day coffee. The bold dark roast I normally drink is a comfort each morning, especially on those mornings that I work from home and get to take extra time blending into the day. I like it overly sweet, with four packets of Splenda, drink it slowly at first, the warmth of the large ceramic mug in my hand enhancing the mellow that so often characterizes my morning. Our condo faces northeast, and I like the view of the sunrise through the large sliding glass doors in our living room.

Funny as it may seem, I am already looking forward to the morning. Oh wait, my revelry will have to wait until Thursday, as tomorrow is one of my commute to work days. My office is nearly 40 miles away, in the far south Chicago suburb of Tinley Park. I pop out of bed (contrary to what Lisa says — she says I shuffle in the morning) promptly at 5:30 AM or earlier if I decide to get up earlier, am out the door before 6. The first part of my commute is on I-88 east to 355 south, a bit hairy until my little Subaru crosses over I-55, the traffic less dense until I get to I-80. Even with the traffic, the Subie rarely drops below 80 mph, and the commute is an easy 35-40 minutes. One of the treats this time of year is watching the sun begin to creep up. When I back into my spot at the office, the morning is fresh, with dawn’s light in its glory as I trudge from my car to the five story building I work in.

My perspective on work is beginning to change. Retirement is no longer just a thought, it’s a reality that I realize will be here before I know it. Lisa wants me to retire at 65. She is two years older than I am, so it makes sense to retire together. I really like that idea. With retirement in mind, my approach to my job is different. There is no real reason for me to want to do another job, to push for a promotion or more money. I am good at my job, take satisfaction in that, am getting the recognition and respect that comes to someone my age, my experience something that is appreciated. In some respects, I have to say it was a long time coming, but maybe that respect is something I had to earn over the years. Today, I interviewed one of the prospects intended to round out the five person team I work with. My boss has had me doing that, wants me to give the potential employees a chance to speak with someone who is doing the job they may be doing. It’s fun for me. The first interview I did was a phone interview, at my desk with my boss listening over my shoulder, and he got a huge chuckle when I told the person I was interviewing that they would get along in the company just fine as long as they weren’t a deadbeat. I am required to use that line with every person I interview now.

Tomorrow also is the start of a two day onboarding class. It’s intended to be a refresher for me. Also, it’s an opportunity to meet some of the people I never see but support on a day to day basis. I like that in a bit of a selfish way. Those people usually express their appreciation, make me feel like I am a big deal. That’s not a bad thing, I guess, and I think my boss has me attend the classes more for the opportunity to further the relationships with our sales people. I take advantage of that opportunity, as once people meet me face to face, it makes it even easier to deal with them afterwards. The extrovert in me also gets a lot of energy from the interaction.

Time to stop my writing for the evening. It almost felt like little walk around the block as I wrote. Lisa is getting ready for bed right now, showering and getting into her pajamas. While I wash my face, brush my teeth and shave, she settles in under the covers and waits for me with the covers pulled up to her nose. I get in bed, give her the nightly back rub while we watch a little bit of Home Town (we love the Napiers) or Fixer Upper (Chip and Joanna are fun to watch). I usually fall asleep rubbing her back, am shaken back awake by Lisa telling me it’s time to put my CPAP mask on.

Good night…….

Exposure of the Indecent Kind

Over the years, bicycling has exposed me to many things, most very good, some out of place. As I was out for a leisurely pedal through the forest preserve close to my home this past Sunday, I came upon something that made me pause in a ‘surely that is not what I think I see’ way. Of course, I had to grab my cell phone out of the handy portable phone pocket in my vest. It wasn’t warm, wasn’t cold. The vest was zipped up, however. From what I could see, not all humans were as concerned about the cool autumn weather.

As I got closer, THONG, it hit me. I told myself to pedal faster, after snapping another quick picture. The moon came out early this past Sunday. It was the beginning of daylight savings time, I suppose, and the light of day was beginning to wane.

He was friendly, said hello as a whizzed past. The forest preserve path takes a jaunt around a large marsh just past the point of exposure. I took my time riding the path around the marsh. That path goes around the marsh, then takes me back the way I came on the way home. Hopefully, moon man would be long gone. Just when I thought the coast was clear, the moon appeared ahead of me again. I caught a glimpse of the guy’s face as I passed — and the guy must have been in his late sixties! The guy was also very tall. He looked a bit perturbed as I passed this time, didn’t say hello. I am glad he wasn’t a fast runner.. or maybe I am not so glad.

Don’t thank me for sharing this one. I know you want to.

Just Say Gnome

Since when did these.. things… become the thing? Albeit they are a little cute, but, geeze, not THAT cute. My wife is going gnome crazy, an obsession of sorts, and I am threatening to put her on a gnome limit. As I speak into this blog, she is out with a friend, at the outlet mall, where she sent me the picture.

Just walk away slooooooowly was my response.

I just happened to be at Menards, a no no for me, as it’s one of our date night favorites. In an effort to show my appreciation of her gnomish predilection, I also responded with some teaser gnome pictures.

Heh heh heh. HEH HEH HEH. Tee hee. I feel very dastardly, although I might not feel so much dastardly when she gets home.

Heyyyyyy, where are you?

I feigned innocence. Home? All of those gnomes magically showed up at our house, then left.

That may have prompted her to make a visit to Hobby Lobby. I get lost when we go to Hobby Lobby, usually decide I need a potty break. It’s not my favorite place, second only to Target. Thankfully, she thinks Menards is cool.

I foresee some gnome torture about to happen in the not so distant future.

Question of the Day

What would it be like if the world wasn’t crazy?

It might be boring.

There wouldn’t be any political ads.

Donald Trump would be president of another planet.

No one would be too extreme for Illinois.

Kyrie Irving wouldn’t have to apologize. No one would be offended simply because they don’t agree.

Cub fans would not exist.

School curriculum would be reading, writing and arithmetic with gender identity left up to nature’s teaching.

Kanye West would suddenly disappear in a puff of smoke.

The Bachelor would pick one nice non supermodel and we would watch as he courts her every week.

Truth would be valued, not despised.

Toot

I come from a family that loves to create music. My mother was a gifted pianist. Dad absolutely loves to sing, is the voice over everyone in the church congregation during the worship time. Mark, my brother, has a degree in piano performance. My daughter plays many instruments as a music teacher.

I toot my horn.

When I was ten years old, I jumped at the chance to learn an instrument and play in the fifth grade ‘Foo Foo’ band. Shamed by the band director, my parents purchased that shiny Conn Connstellation you see in my hands. Fifty years later, it’s still a beautiful instrument, the nickel finish still bright. There are scratches, for sure, but the horn plays well. Off and on over the years, I have picked my horn up and played, mostly for church events and services. Playing is still fun for me.

After a few years lay off, I am tooting again. Next month, I am leading a brass ensemble playing Christmas carols for a dinner at the church I attend. Organizing the ensemble has not been fun. As a matter of fact, it has been a challenge coaxing people to pick up their instrument again and play. It takes some confidence to play in public when it’s been a while. Never one to be shy, confidence isn’t a problem for me. Of course, experience has taught me that playing the horn, even if only in marginal shape to play, is something that people appreciate hearing. Christmas music is easy, I have told most of the people I have asked to play. It is easy, a perfect chance to begin playing again.

It’s also been a challenge getting the staff at church to support my efforts. I have been a member of the church for almost a year, not much time, and I still don’t know that many people. When I volunteered to organize the brass ensemble, I asked a staff person if a request for volunteer musicians could be included in the weekly church email blast, maybe in the Sunday morning announcements. The staff person refused, gave me two names of people who might play an instrument, encouraged me to find musicians on my own. His reaction was discouraging, made my task quite bit more difficult than it should have been. I asked around, have found several people willing to consider playing, but not really many willing to commit. However, my daughter knows someone in the area who teaches french horn at a local music store. That person will play in the ensemble and will provide the other musicians needed to fill out the ensemble. I will have to pay them. I guess that will be my tithe for the month! I did talk to the young man who is the worship pastor at the church. He volunteered to purchase the music, but it took him nearly a week to respond to my email, and he responded only after I followed up twice. Church stuff isn’t always easy.

I am happy to be tooting again.

(oops, I am definitely getting old…just realized I wrote about this a month ago!!!!)

Am I Strong?

You don’t know how much I appreciate what you did today. You really showed me what a wonderful man you are. I saw your strength, you character, and I am so glad God has given you to me

She said that with her arms wrapped tightly around me, tears in her eyes, the gratitude expressed in a way I have been waiting for, probably for decades. I received it from my wife, the one person in my life I really need to hear that from. Do I remember her words exactly? No, but it’s the intent of the words that mean the most to me. Her gratitude, the validation she so sweetly gave to me, tastes better than any meal I will ever consume. I will cherish that moment for the rest of my life.

I was tired. So was she. We had just arrived home after helping her son move into a third floor apartment, an all day affair that had started early last Saturday morning. He was struggling, having made the difficult decision of leaving his girlfriend the week before, and desperately needed support. Moving day had come and he really wasn’t prepared except for having the apartment leased. I texted him early in the morning, asked if he had reserved a moving van or truck. He hadn’t, so I told him I would go find a van for the move, meet him at the storage unit where he had stashed his things. Saturday morning is not really the time to try to find a moving van, but I was fortunate, found the last van available at the local UHaul. The kicker was that it needed to be returned by 4 PM, as it was reserved at that time. It only gave us a few hours to get him moved into his place.

We got it done. I pushed, wouldn’t let anyone quit. Several times during the day, Lisa remarked at the benefit my mountain biking has on me. I literally pushed the dresser and a few of the larger items up the stairs. I returned the van to the rental with 15 minutes to spare. I came back to the apartment, helped set up the bed frame, a computer desk, and a few other items. The day required me to flex my muscle in more ways than one, my strength needed by example as much or more than physical strength. I’m proud of myself, but what really boosted my confidence was the pride she expressed to me.

I don’t want to abuse your grace, (but) Lord I need it every day. It’s the only thing that ever really makes me want to change.

Your forgiveness is like sweet, sweet honey on my lips, like the sound of a symphony to my ears

  • from the song Holy Water by We the Kingdom

If ever I understood my need for God’s grace, His forgiveness, it is now. If ever I saw how great His grace is for me, it is now. My entire life has been one constant demonstration of God’s grace to me. God has proven to me that grace is mine even during a time after a divorce, a time where I have felt I deserve it the least. I have been provided someone who shows me what God’s grace is, a partner who so kindly gives me her own form of grace every day. She loves me as I am, just as God does. As the song says, it’s the only thing that ever really makes me want to change.

Lisa put this up on the wall of our bedroom recently. I like it!

Getting the Pucker Back

I used to have quite the pucker. My lips were strong, my lung capacity ample. In my day, I could blast with the best of them. Playing the trumpet was a love, something I did well, and I had a talent. Some said I had music in my veins, a gift I inherited from a mother who truly played music as if she were born to do so. I know that when I turned ten, the band director at my school made sure I signed up to learn an instrument, his hope being that I had just a little bit of the musical talent my mother possessed.

The instrument I chose to play was based on the availability of an instrument to play. My dad had played cornet when he was in school, still had his old cornet. So I decided that would be my instrument. I was already familiar with music, having taken piano lessons from my mother since I was seven years old, so I had a head start on learning the notes. Trumpet/Cornet is a B flat instrument, so the transition from piano to trumpet was fairly simple.

This should be the place where I wax poetically about how I was a natural, a prodigy. Unfortunately, I struggled at first. However, I really wanted to play, and after a few months that started to show. Despite the poor condition of my dad’s old cornet, I had developed a good sound. Mr. Tony Mazzara, the band teacher and director of all the bands at the small school I attended in Rochester, Illinois, called my mother one day and chided her for being a ‘cheap Charlie’. Buy the boy a decent instrument, he demanded, it looks like the kid has some talent.

Even at my young age, I appreciated the significance of my parents’ response to his challenge. Mom and Dad didn’t have much money to throw around, but they took me to the music store in Springfield, shelled out some coin for a very nice nickel plated Conn Connstellation, the instrument I still possess. It’s a great horn, and I immediately started playing much better, so much so that the band director asked me to play in the junior high band as a sixth grade student — playing with the first part trumpet section. My parents were very proud, happy that their investment had been a good one.

Rochester’s music program was an active one, top notch, with concert bands that took top honors at the state level. I was honored to become first chair shortly into my freshman year of high, something the senior whose chair I took was not happy about. One of the fights I had in high school (yes, there were a few of those) was with that former first chair senior. He pushed me up against a locker in anger after the promotion — right in front of a teacher. So, that fight was a short one, although the guy didn’t quit trying to pick the fight until he got his wish. It was a short fight. I don’t honestly remember who ‘won’.

In high school, I did double duty at basketball games, playing on the team and in the pep band before the games. I got a scholarship to band camp one summer, enjoyed playing the flugel horn for an arrangement of Paul McCartney’s ‘Uncle Albert’. I still love that song! My sophomore year, I auditioned for the Illinois state honors band and was first chair trumpet for the state honors concert. Our concert bands continued to receive top honors at the district and state competitions. The jazz band director at the local community college invited me to play with the community college band, so I got a little taste of playing jazz, played with the community college jazz band my first year of college. I enjoyed it, but I have never enjoyed playing jazz solos, and still write out solos instead of playing improv.

One of the stories I like to tell my kids is a band story. Each year, Rochester’s concert band travelled to Northwestern University in Chicago to participate in the university’s band day event. Rochester didn’t have a football team then (which has changed — as Rochester now has a very successful football program). Mr. Mazzara liked to take us to Northwestern’s band day as a way to give us a taste of playing on a football field, since we didn’t have a football team and thusly did not have a marching band. The highlight of Northwestern’s band day was filling the entire football field from end zone to end zone with high school bands from throughout Illinois. John Painter, the university band director, directed the bands from a scaffold in the middle of the football field. My senior year, Rochester’s band was positioned somewhere around the 20 yard line. During rehearsal, Painter stopped rehearsal, pointed at our band and proclaimed that all he could hear was our trumpet section. We were too loud! Despite his command that we tone it down, we instead played louder.

Never tell a trumpet player they are too loud. It only encourages us to turn it up. I have parted the hair of many a floutist who sat in front of me in band — proudly and with a smirk. Floutists hate trumpet players, as they usually are seated in front of the trumpet section.

It has been roughly five years since the last time I have played, except for the occasional few toots. The church I attended for years had a jazz orchestra, with very talented musicians who humbled me. During those years, I learned to enjoy playing the lower parts, although I had plenty of opportunities to shine. My church also liked to use horns as part of the worship band, some of the most fun I have had playing the trumpet. One included backing up a gospel singer, a large woman who loved to vamp, a challenge to the horn section who kept have to play the same riffs over and over as she kept singing.

Right now, I am in the process of getting my chops back in shape. Since I am getting involved with a new church (new to me), I am trying to find a way to get involved in the church. Soon, I hope to get a chance to play in some form at the church, whether it is as a part of the worship band or simply playing as part of brass ensemble during the holidays. I have volunteered, but I may have to be the one who gets the ball rolling. Remember the whole divorce debacle from a few months back? I kind of get the idea that church leadership is a little hesitant to let me get involved. I have prayed about getting involved, feel like God is good with me. Things will be alright. In the meantime, I am getting ready to play!